The Babolat Propulse has developed anger management issues. First, the flagship shoe evolved into the Fury, and now it has become Rage. Things are escalating quickly. The next installment may have nowhere else to go but full-on Hulk. The monikers are obviously meant to inspire aggression, and the shoe has transformed over the years from more of a heavy, supportive, durability shoe, to one with greater emphasis on speed and explosive movement. And when it comes to covering the court with heated footwork, the Rage can accommodate.
When I received an initial preview of the Rage, I was told it’s basically a second pair of socks; a tight squeeze designed for a locked-in feel and maximum responsiveness. In other words, players who gravitate to roominess should look elsewhere. Since my foot is on the narrow side, the description didn’t dissuade my interest in a trial pair. However, it’s also not entirely accurate. Yes, it’s probably not the best option for players with wider feet, but it’s no straightjacket either. In fact, I found it rather comfortable.
For starters, the upper material surrounding the forefoot is tough and supportive, but has enough flex and room to accommodate toe spread when contacting the court. The full bootie construction has an “insock” which wraps around the foot for a form-fit. The lining is soft with a decent amount of cushioning. It hugs the foot, but I felt in a friendly way.
The stability of the shoes comes from the X Support straps that wrap the midfoot and heel. It’s the latest progression of the Powerbelts that were staples of earlier Propulse models. The straps are integrated into the lacing system; the level of support is primarily determined by how tightly the shoes are tied. Fortunately, the lacing system on the Rage is quite smooth and cinching it up was not a problem. The laces are also slightly asymmetrical to lessen pressure on the top of the foot when pulling them snugly. Along with the midfoot shank, which prevented unwanted twisting, there was a great deal of security when making aggressive lateral cuts.
Where the Rage drew my ire was support in the heel area. It was comfortable enough—there’s a nice level of padding just below the collar—but I just incurred a few too many instances of back-foot wiggle for my liking, especially when sprinting forward. It wasn’t full-fledge slippage, but enough to lose some responsiveness. I didn’t feel the same strong sense of security I was getting from the midfoot. Or, what was previously afforded by the older Velcro belts around the heel. That style has long been jettisoned in the interest of speed and lower weight. But there has been some give and take. The Rage is not a lightweight shoe, but it’s trim for a high-performance Propulse, and not at all cumbersome for a model featuring this amount of sturdiness and support.
Shock absorption and bounce are provided by the familiar EVA padding of the KPRS-X midsole. It has been a staple in Babolat shoes, offering a respectable level of cushioning; not as plush and plentiful as some competitors, but short of feeling sparse or unyielding. It struck a nice balance in the Rage—enough to soak up contact, while still allowing for court feel. The additional padding in the heel provides enhanced protection and slightly elevates the rear of the foot to help keep you on your toes.
On the outsole, the Michelin Man is back again, bringing with him a six-month warrantee. The tread pattern is the same as all Babolat’s All-Court models, making it viable on all surfaces, although I would sooner recommend it for hard courts. The outsole also covers the toe cap, and creeps up the medial side of the forefoot for additional durability. It’s a good combination for players who like to beat up their shoes.
Overall, I was pleased with the Rage’s performance. Other than some mediocre moments in terms of unwanted heel movement, it handled its assignments quite well. I felt confident, stable and quick moving side-to-side, with a surprisingly level of comfort. I was particularly impressed with the midfoot security provided by the support straps and integrated lacing system. If you're a powerful mover, the Rage might be the right fit to harness your aggression.